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How Reading can Improve your Blogging

“Temporarily moonlighting from her current occupation of mother-to-two, Karen Andrews is going to talk about two of her favourite subjects: reading and blogging. If you’d like to read more of her work – with perhaps a bit of talk of bodily functions and toddler antics included – you can find her at www.miscmum.com

I don’t play poker well, so I am going to show my hand early: I like to think I know a bit about writing and reading. ‘Hang on, so do I!’ may say you. Certainly if you are blogging, you already know the importance of content, of exacting the best of your knowledge and putting it out in the bloggersphere, hopefully to be respected and successful.

But are you doing this at the expense of reading? Does it even matter? I think so, and so does Francis Bacon,

‘Reading maketh a full man’

Reading is an education

Before you start squirming, believing I am going to offer a teaspoon of icky medicine, consider this – education is increasingly being seen as a commodity: something you buy and discard. It’s less Dead Poets Society than it is ‘How to get perfect grades’. Knowledge isn’t retained. We’ve forgotten what we learned at school as soon as the bell rings for summer.

Blogging can change this. You research; you search for the right words. You recognise your audience and their needs. In a way, you are becoming an educator yourself so isn’t it important to be the best you can be? Further, wider, reading can improve your grammar (an area most of us are unsure about, let’s be honest) and expands your vocabulary. If you recognise various types of writing style or authorial voice, you are less likely to imitate them. Because the point is to develop your own, isn’t it? There’s nothing more frustrating for a reader than a self-conscious writer.

Take a look at your blog. Are you overly apologetic? Do you always sit on the fence? Is your language bland? Do you overuse graphics and photos to compensate for language failings?

Tip: Read a blog you admire, and pick a post you particularly like. Imagine the author sitting at the keyboard and forming the keystrokes as they type. This is an adapted exercise many writing students are asked to complete (usually substituting keystrokes for pen strokes) in order to get a sense of rhythm and pace.

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Do You Have Blog Goals?

Reader QuestionsStuart asks – ‘I would love to know what type of goals you set yourself in terms of future earnings, readership, subscribers, commenters and even SEO growth. Mainly because I’m just really nosey but also because I like to know how the BIG boys play the game.’

Hi Stuart – good question and one I’ve not really written about for a while now. It’s time for a bit of an update on it because my goal setting practices here have changed somewhat.

In my early days of moving towards ‘going Pro’ (or full time) as a blogger I used to set a lot more goals than I currently do for my blogs.

When my wife and I decided to give blogging for an income a go we set me a six month deadline to be earning enough income to justify the time I was putting into my blogging (at this stage I’d already been blogging part time as a hobby for a year or so). At this time I set myself some goals in these areas:

  • posting frequency – it was in this time that I set myself the goal of posting 20 times a day (less on weekends). I was working on almost 20 blogs at the time so 20 was the minimum number of posts that I wanted to write – some days I’d do up to 40.
  • ptraffic targets – my goal for a while there was to see traffic grow by 10% per month.
  • pincome targets – similarly I aimed for 10% growth in income

I didn’t really many more specific goals than that. Of course I wanted to increase comment levels, subscriber levels and my search engine rankings – but I didn’t really put any measures on these things (in fact subscriber levels couldn’t be measured at this time as it was Pre-Feedburner Counter days).

These days I still track all of these metrics – but I don’t set myself hard and fast goals in them on the majority of my blogs. Instead, my goals are a lot more broad (ie – I want reader numbers to increase – no numbers or set targets).

There are a few main reasons why I don’t get so worked up about goals:

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Blogging’s Most Underused Feature: Future Posts

This post was written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev (feed). Check out LifeDev for more tips on using tools to make your life more productive.

Creating posts for the future is an extremely valuable and overlooked feature in most blogging platforms. Interestingly, the majority of people don’t even know that this feature exists in most blogging tools. Yet I’d argue that it’s one of the most important features, at least in terms of being productive.

Basic productivity is aided by dividing up your tasks by the tools that are used to complete them. For example, if you’re going to be on the phone, make all of your calls in one sitting. By grouping together your tasks by tools, you can complete the tasks quicker. If you’ve heard anything about GTD (Getting Things Done), this will sound familiar to you.

For our purposes, the tasks are blog posts and the tool is your blogging platform (IE WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, etc.). So if you want to be uber-productive, this means writing multiple posts in one sitting. In fact, you could even crank out some/most of your posts for the week in one sitting, depending on the type of blog you have. (This method doesn’t work well for news breaking blogs.) Just write them up, and set your post to publish in the future. Easy peasy.

Try it out and see how much time you’ll save with blogging in the future. And for that matter, if you’re interested in learning more about GTD, check out my GTD Cheatsheet Series for a head start.

Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth

Reader QuestionsKumiko asks – ‘I was studying John Chow’s traffic patterns through Alexa and noticed that his popularity really surged after four of his articles were listed on Digg and his traffic went through the roof. He was ‘discovered’ through these and his traffic levels have never really looked back. And receiving a link in one of your posts has done wonderful things for my own traffic!

What were landmark posts or actions that you did in order to receive the traffic that you have now? Was there a single post or link that sent your traffic sky-high and made you a ‘pro-blogger?’

Good question – although not the easiest one to answer as there have been many such moments in the 4 or so years that I’ve been blogging.

Before answering the question from my own perspective let me make a more general observation.

Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth

Every blog is so different and for some the process of ‘being discovered’ that you write about above is definitely a factor (usually after a big blog or social network site links up).

On the other hand there are also many popular blogs out there where the rise to success was much more slow and steady.

For this second group it is the accumulation of good blogging over a sustained period of time that gets them discovered – one reader at a time, one day at a time and one post at a time. I suspect this second group represents the majority of bloggers.

Speaking Personally

If i were to plot my own blogging experience on the spectrum between being ‘discovered’ and the ‘slow and steady’ approach I’d have to say that it’s differed for me from blog to blog. Here’s how it’s been on three of my own blogs:

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Is Your Blog Template Holding You Back?

This Guest Post was written by Wendy Piersall from eMoms at Home.

In the first few months of blogging, there was SO much to learn. I figured that SEO was one of those battles I would tackle once I was “more established”. But after 9 months or so, I hired a professional designer to develop a custom template for my blog. Quite literally the next day, my search engine traffic doubled. Soon I went from 800 referrals a month to nearly 2400 monthly referrals - just from Google alone.

I realized rather quickly that I had been terribly short sighted on the importance of SEO for a blog. The extra visitors are important, of course, but with more search engine hits came…

  • New readers from outside of the blogging community
  • New advertising opportunities
  • A higher click-through on existing ads
  • Better monetization options for highly ranked posts
  • Mainstream press inquiries

How could a blog template impact search traffic THAT much? My question led me to Chris Pearson of Pearsonified and Sarah Lewis of Blogging Expertise, my template designer. Both of these talented designers know how to put a seriously powerful template together – and I decided to interview them to help you ensure your blog template isn’t holding you back, too.

Interview with Chris Pearson and Sarah Lewis

~Chris, I found a post on your blog in which you had a similar jump in traffic from an SEO perspective. You had recently moved from Movable Type to WordPress – what is it about WordPress that is so search engine friendly? [Read more...]

See How Easily You Can Become a Successful Blogger

This post has been submitted by Neil Patel. Neil is co-founder and CTO of ACS) and writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog, Pronet Advertising.

Engadget, The Huffington Post, Boing Boing, and TechCrunch all share the common thread of being wildly popular and successful. While that seems entirely wonderful and we’d all hope for the same thing with our blog, the reality is that most of us will never have blogs that popular. I’m hoping that people will step up and prove me wrong and to give everybody a head start, here are some things we can all learn from the success of these blogs:

1. There is nothing wrong with blogging once a week, but the more you blog the more traffic you will receive. All of these blogs put some merit in quantity and blog a ton of content, yet they try and not sacrifice on quality either. This isn’t easy to accomplish by any means, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that quantity doesn’t matter.

2. Like any normal business, you are going to have a good amount of competitors or in this case people writing about the same thing and fighting for those RSS subscribers. Again, like any normal business you need to carve a niche of your own and really differentiate yourself in the crowd. Pick a passion and become a thought leader within the confines of your niche and your blog will grow in popularity.

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Finding Advertisers for Your Blog

Reader QuestionsAlistair asks – ‘Having a niche blog means that I will never have the same amount of visitors as some of the larger technology/media blogs. This means that advertisers such as blog ads will not allow me to use their ads as they see me as having lower visitor numbers. Traditionally manufacturers in my niche are wary of the internet even though they have websites – I have contacted a few and state my visitor numbers etc but still they are unwilling to even trial. I think it is because my blog is “personal” but in my niche I can get away with that as it is classed as a diary. Any advice?’

Tough one Alistair. I could write a lot on this (and have actually asked Chad, b5media’s Ad Sales guy to write some posts for me on the topic too) but here are a few tips that come to mind. I hope you don’t mind me compiling them as a list as they’re somewhat random ideas:

1. Show them what they’re buying – one of the most powerful strategies I used in my early days of selling ads to people was to show them how I ranked in Google for their keywords. Compile a list of words that you rank for that you can pull out next time you’re talking to an advertiser. If when people search the web for information on products that they sell they end up on your site you have a key selling point.

2. Traffic is a Powerful Motivator – there’s no getting around it – to many advertisers traffic numbers are key. I hope that this trend is changing (what I saw at ad:Tech in Sydney recently confirms this as advertisers are looking to get more niche in their focus) but in the mean time it does count. Keep working to build traffic and be ready to share your numbers and back them up with graphs/tables etc.

3. Collect Demographics – every ad agency I ever spoke with about buying space on my blogs asked about the demographics of my audience. Do some surveys and collect this data as it’ll help sell your case.

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What Bloggers Can Learn From… Indirect Earners

Today’s guest post is from Chris Garrett from chrisg.com.

For many bloggers their income focus is based on direct methods. Most bloggers have at least tried some advertising, particularly Adsense. There is a massive potential though for earning money indirectly from blogging.

Direct methods would include

  • Advertising – Adsense, Banners, Chitika
  • Affiliates – Visitor buys through your link, you get a commission
  • Links – Paid for having their link on your blog
  • Paid Reviews – You pay me to review your site/product through PPP or ReviewMe
  • Sponsorships – Tends to work like a longer term advertising but can include the sponsor providing products and services rather than a purely financial arrangement.
  • Gifts – Visitors like your stuff so much they reward you with tips, or perhaps you have a donation drive to attract a certain figure for a particular purpose

These methods will involve your blog as the central driver of the transaction. In indirect methods the driver is usually you and in most cases the blog is absent from the transaction. The critical factor in indirect methods is your reputation. A reputation built completely or in part using blogs.

Let’s take a look at some ways bloggers have used their blogging reputation to earn money because of their blog but not necessarily using their blog.

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Connect with me via Facebook… and more

Over the last few weeks I’ve had an influx of invitations to connect with people on Facebook. I’ve never promoted my page on this social networking site but as there seems to be some momentum on it I figure why not – so if you’d like to connect there please do via this badge.

Darren Rowse's Facebook profile

Also – if you’re interested in seeing what happens when some of the b5media team get together face to face check out some of Chad’s photos of the evening last night at a French restaurant in downtown Toronto.

PS: While we’re talking social networking – if you’d like to be my ‘friend’ or be ‘connected’ on other social network sites you might also like to do so at:

LinkedIn
MySpace
MyBlogLog